Sat on Sharia al-Nil, Tuti Island lies behind me, where people sit under the shade of the imposing bridge, drinking tea as the Blue Nile flows between them and Khartoum. In front of me stands Friendship Hall, the venue of the official announcement of the results of Sudan’s “step towards democracy”. Pick-up trucks surround the building with armed soldiers crammed into the back, both clad in blue camouflage.
Everybody knew the result already, but today Omar al-Bashir was declared winner of the elections, remaining President of Sudan, claiming 68% of the vote and with his National Congress Party (NCP) sweeping the North. Chairman of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Salva Kiir, won 93% of the Southern votes, making him President of the Government of Southern Sudan, and the Republic’s vice-president.
As the results were announced, passing vehicles sounded their horns, with some drivers brandishing tree branches—the symbol for the NCP—out of their windows. Policemen in the street were shouting Allahu akbar, “God is great”, in celebration.
The elections have taken place under varying degrees of condemnation, with opposition parties claiming wide-spread fraud, Western observers criticising them as “not meeting international standards” whilst the Russians saying that they were fair “by African standards”.
With all eyes now on the referendum, where the South will vote on secession to form a new, independent country, many feel that the West does not want to rock the boat. The referendum was drafted as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended the second Sudanese Civil War in 2005. Both North and South have obligations to work to make unity attractive to Southern voters, although traces of this seem to be minimal. Bashir has stated that whatever the outcome, he will respect the results, and that the referendum will take place on schedule. Last weekend, however, tensions were rising on the north-south border, with clashes reported.
Back in Khartoum’s centre following the announcement of the results, all was calm. Mass public demonstrations, which were feared by embassies and their security advice, never materialised. During the whole period, there was never any need for the “stockpiling of food and water”. Walking through the streets was just like any other day.
So now the elections are over, I guess I need to find another excuse for my stay in Khartoum…
» More photos: Sudanese Elections.